I'm not a 'Real Runner'
I thought this for years. In a few weeks it will be the 10-year anniversary of my first 5K. Like many I’m sure, my running story progressed slowly over the years, 5K’s here and there very randomly; stops and starts over and over again, as I tried to find some type of exercise I could stick with. Enjoy wasn’t on my radar, I was just trying to find anything I could tolerate to help me improve my health and lose weight. Six years ago, my mom convinced me to sign up for a half marathon with her; I thought she was crazy to want to run 13.1 miles, but I decided to do it. I was proud of that accomplishment of course, but definitely didn’t believe that qualified me as a ‘real’ runner. I ran some 10K’s, a couple 10-milers, a few more half marathons; but oh no no no, I’m not a ‘real’ runner. I’m not sure what criteria I thought I wasn’t satisfying, but I felt unqualified. I didn’t run enough for that surely; real runners run all the time, they have special gear, they have insider lingo, they do marathons, they’re fast! They LOVE running.
Three years ago, I decided to try something new and signed up for a 200-mile overnight relay; it sounded like fun and my part wouldn't be much more difficult than a half marathon. I didn’t know anyone who would consider doing something like that, so I hopped on a team with 11 strangers. That weekend was a significant turning point in my journey; these people were the real deal. I said something like “I’m not a real runner, I just thought this sounded fun” and the response I got was “well here you are in this van... hmm, yep, you’re a runner,” and something started to shift for me; I listened to them talk about their marathons and my instinct was no, that’s crazy, that’s too far, that’s not for me. But the seed was planted… if I were a real runner, then why not a marathon? So I signed up for one.
I also learned that I liked talking about running and having running friends, something a real runner could embrace! I had just been doing my own thing for years, it had never occurred to me to look for community. I didn’t know there WAS a community. I started learning what all the mysterious terms and abbreviations meant, I joined a club, made friends, improved my training and got faster, all of which increased my enjoyment. Suddenly it seemed, I was running all the time, I had special gear, I knew the lingo, I ran marathons, I was faster, and I LOVED running.
All because I finally let myself in; allowed myself to hear that external validation and identify with it. I’m not a fan of labels, in general; I think they hold us back and box us in. This appears to be the case whether we’re limiting ourselves by using a label or limiting ourselves by NOT using a label. Deciding to embrace “runner” gave me permission to do SO much more, and has truly enriched and changed my life.
What are you not allowing yourself to claim? What more could you do if you owned it?